12 Months of Emotions

21
Aug

Learning to Like My Reflection in the Mirror

This month we are discussing the emotion of contentment. When we were hashing out the storyline for each week’s blog, I decided I wanted to discuss learning to be finally content with my reflection. Not only content but to be truly joyful that I am the woman I see in the mirror. 

I see now that I am exactly who the God of all Creation created me to be. You are too!

We talked Monday about the Magic Mirror in the fairy tale of Snow White. I shared my struggles with what I use to see in my (not so magical) mirror. Did the wrinkles disappear? Did I find the fountain of youth? Has every day since then been filled with flowers and trophies because I won the day’s beauty contest? No, none of these occurred. What has and is occurring is that I’ve been spending time with God. I’ve been undoing the lies the world has told me by tying my truth to God’s word. Finally, I’m learning how to be truly content with the person I see staring back at me in the mirror. I want that for all of us, don’t you?

Where did my mindset of discontent come from?

Well, I was raised in an all-American home that looked very much like everyone else’s from the outside. From an early age, I was raised to believe that contentment meant settling, and that is not a good place to land. Being content according to the world’s standard is not something to strive for. It’s to be avoided at all cost.

According to the world, we should always be reaching for the next rung on the ladder of life. The grass is always greener on the other side and we need to make it over “there” to be happy once and for all! Of course, there will always be a new upgrade coming that is sure to make life smoother than it has ever been. 

Seeking out contentment is big business if you look at the commercials that flood your radio, television, and social media. Have you ever googled an idea for a vacation and had your Facebook page flooded with ads for Airbnb’s, cruises, airline tickets, or the ever-popular Sandals resort? Or maybe you were searching for something simple like a good moisturizer and suddenly ads for plastic surgeons, Botox injections, and spas are suggested because they have just the thing you need to “finally” feel beautiful and content. 

The world tells us every day that our physical self, our home, our car, our bank account, and pretty much everything else around us is not good enough. Contentment is an elusive state of being according to the world.

However, the Bible says we can be content in every circumstance when we live God-centered lives. Paul teaches that contentment isn’t dependent on our surroundings, our belongings, or our current bank balance. It’s dependent on God alone. Philippians 4:11-13 states:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” NIV

What’s the secret to having a life of contentment? God is! Doing life with God and allowing Him to be the forerunner in your day to day, provides contentment that the world cannot offer.

No longer does the lure of new and shiny things, which will tarnish and fade away, hold my attention, nor should it hold yours. It sounds like I have arrived at Heaven on earth, doesn’t it? Let me rephrase it. Do I still like looking at shiny things? Yes, of course, I do! Do I somedays long for fewer wrinkles and love handles? Yep! But when I converse with God, He tells me I’m lovely and precious to Him. He says He is jealous for me and that He alone should be my focus.  He whispers to me that He created me to be me and that I have a calling to fulfill.

Now when I pass by a mirror and it grabs my attention, I can now see God’s love for me reflecting back at me. Oh, I see the wrinkles, but now I know that they show experiences and life stories that I am meant to share. I see a mom that raised two sons to be good, Godly men and know that they learned how to treat their wives by witnessing how their father treated me. I see a wife of forty plus years that has stumbled and struggled along the way but has always been honored and held close by the husband she shared vows with. 

I see a woman that if she had been left to her own devices would have ended up who knows where. But for God! God never saw those faults. He has never left me alone. He has been there through every tear I’ve shed, every time I’ve bruised my knees, and every moment I suffered from hurt feelings. He has cheered me on when I felt accomplished, He has picked me up when I faltered, and He has set me on a straight path to complete the mission He laid out for me before I was born. In God’s eyes, I’m exactly who He thought I should be. How can I not be content with that!! 

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16 NIV

It can be the same for you!

By studying Scripture, we learn that faith in God means we must trust that He knows what we need and that He will provide it. Our job isn’t to run after the next shiny object. It is to seek Christ in all things. We are to chase after God and know that through Him true contentment will come. To do anything else makes us no different than those that don’t know Christ.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  …For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:25, 32-33 NIV

I ask you, Sister, are you resting in God? Are you content with your life regardless of your circumstances? What do you see beyond your reflection in the mirror?

Written by Rhonda Carlsen

Please note all scripture was taken from the NIV

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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14
Aug

The Unmistakable Freedom of Contentment and How to Find It

con·tent·ment (ˈkənˈtentmənt):

A state of happiness and satisfaction.

When we think of contentment, we think of happiness, satisfaction, and serenity. This month, as we continue our study on the emotion of contentment, we find that contentment means different things to different people. What makes a person happy and/or satisfied? Is it money, kids, material things, or something completely intangible?

Scripture argues that we should be content when we have enough food to eat and enough clothing to wear. 

After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. 1 Timothy 6:7-8 NLT

Selfish people, however, are never contented. We also cannot be contented if we harbor stress and mistrust. Discontentment separates us from Christ and prevents God from working in our hearts and souls.

There are many characters in Scripture that are wonderful examples of how we can emulate contentment as well as give us guidance on how to handle our daily struggles to maintain our own happiness. This week let’s talk about Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel.

Joseph’s story is truly one that shows us what it means to be content despite our circumstances. Not everyone can find happiness in disparaging circumstances such as the ones he experienced.

As a child, Joseph was the most loved by his father, favored over all the other children. As he grew, Joseph would spend time with his father while the older brothers worked in the fields. Jacob continuously elevated Joseph over his brothers inviting jealousy, hatred, and distrust into their daily dynamics. The brothers grew so discontent about the relationship between Jacob and Joseph that they plotted to kill Joseph. Reuben, his eldest brother, concerned about the fallout Joseph’s death would cause, convinced his brothers to leave Joseph in an empty water tank instead because he planned to return and rescue him later. But before that could happen, a group of traders came through and Judah recommended they sell him as a slave. And for twenty pieces of silver, they did (Genesis 37).

At this point, we can only imagine Joseph’s feelings of confusion, loss, disappointment, and despair. Though Joseph was sold by his brothers, the Bible tells us God was with him. Joseph would find himself serving Potiphar, an Egyptian officer. While in service to Potiphar, Joseph would prosper and be placed in authority over Potiphar’s entire household. Unfortunately, Joseph encounters Potiphar’s wife, another person who is not satisfied with her own life and wants more. She would demand something that Joseph wasn’t willing to give her – his body. In anger, Potiphar’s wife would accuse Joseph of rape and cause him to be thrown into prison (Genesis 37, 39).

Me, personally, I’m not sure how content I would have been feeling if I were in Joseph’s shoes. Yet again, he excels and becomes the warden’s favorite in the king’s prison. Before long, Joseph is in charge again.

While in prison, Joseph would meet the Pharaoh’s chief cup bearer and the chief baker.

“Why do you look so worried today?” he asked them. And they replied, “We both had dreams last night, but no one can tell us what they mean.” “Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied. “Go ahead and tell me your dreams.” Genesis 40:7-8 NLT

Joseph would interpret the dreams of both and as predicted the chief baker was impaled by Pharaoh while the chief cup bearer was restored to his former position. Though Joseph asked the cup bearer to remember him for his good deed, he would be forgotten and left in prison (Genesis 40).

But Joseph’s story didn’t end there. Two years later, Pharaoh would have some troubling dreams that no one could interpret. And finally, Joseph was remembered by the cup bearer and brought before Pharaoh.

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream last night, and no one here can tell me what it means. But I have heard that when you hear about a dream you can interpret it.” “It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied. “But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.” Genesis 41:15-16 NLT

Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams provides a solution to the impending destruction of Egypt from an upcoming seven-year famine. Again, Joseph finds favor and Pharaoh elevates Joseph to overseer of Egypt, being only second to Pharaoh himself.

At the age of thirty, Joseph began serving Pharaoh directly. He was given Pharaoh’s signet ring and a gold chain as well as dressed in fine fabrics. Joseph was provided a chariot and everywhere he went people were commanded to kneel. No one in the entire land of Egypt lifted a hand or foot without Joseph’s approval. Joseph was also given a wife and a new Egyptian name, Zaphen-paneah, which means God speaks and lives (Genesis 41).

Joseph’s story would come full circle when his brothers needing food to feed the family arrived in Egypt to purchase supplies. Not recognizing their brother, Joseph held the fate of his entire family in his hands. After some slight manipulation of his brothers, Joseph eventually reveals himself to his family, offers forgiveness, and is reunited with his father. With Pharaoh’s blessing, he moves them to Egypt and cares for them for all the days of his life (Genesis 42).

There must have been hundreds of things Joseph felt over the course of his lifetime, but not once during the chronicles of Joseph’s life does the word discontent seem to fit him.

Why? I believe Joseph chose to find contentment in the most trying of situations.

Like Joseph, we can either choose contentment or we can continue to wallow in feelings like unhappiness and distrust, never feeling satisfied with what we have. If we follow the example of Joseph, allowing God’s love and guidance to govern our every action, we can find and maintain a sense of contentment by:

*Trusting God in everything

*Being grateful

*Taking control of our attitude

*Being content with what we have and where we are in life

*Serving and helping others

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank You for another chance to get it right. We thank You for another chance to choose contentment over discontentment. We thank You for allowing us to be content in Your arms. Only You can turn a horrible situation into a bed of roses. Only You can provide us with whatever it is that truly gives us our individual contentment. We look to You for our help and our salvation. Let nothing separate or distract us from Your plans for us. Honor and Glory to God Almighty. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Written by Melony Henderson

Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

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7
Aug

Is There Contentment to Be Found in this World?

This week we are shifting our attention to the emotion of contentment. Are you satisfied with your life, your job, your family, or even yourself? If we are being completely honest, most of us are not. We long for an improvement in one or more of these areas. We feel we are lacking something, and we are constantly seeking it.

Can we even be content in this day and age when everything in society tells us what we have is not enough?

Contentment is a type of emotion, but it is also a choice. God often will not satisfy our wants until He sees that we can be content with what He has already given us. He knows the proverbial the grass is greener on the other side mindset that most of us display and He is working to eliminate that nature in us for a greater good.

But man, the struggle is REAL!

How can we develop a true sense of contentment when everything within us is striving for something more? To answer that question, let’s first look at the words of King Solomon.

Solomon was the son of King David and his wife, Bathsheba. His life as king started off well because when the Lord came to him to bless him, he chose to ask God for wisdom above all else and it pleased God.

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” 1 Kings 3:10-14 NLT

Sounds good so far, right? Solomon would go on to acquire great wealth and the wisdom he displayed among the people brought him much honor. But somewhere along the way, Solomon became discontent. Soon all his power and riches bought no lasting happiness.

The most notable area that Solomon was discontent in was his marriages. The Bible states Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Of even more significance is the fact that this Jewish king had taken many foreign women to be a part of this massive harem. In doing so he broke God’s commandment to the Jewish people to not intermarry with foreigners. God’s ruling on this was not one of racism, but a clear directive of protection to the Jewish people so that they would not take up worshiping heathen gods. As Solomon grew his collection of foreign females, he indeed would allow them to influence him and cause his own heart to turn from God (1 Kings 11).

Rich, powerful, popular, and endlessly searching for happiness. That was Solomon in what should have been the best years of his life. And in his later years, he would reflect on it and give us great insights written in the book of Ecclesiastes. If you have never read through this particular Old Testament book, I encourage you to do so. Solomon gives us a real-world view of what having it all truly looks like and how it all ends.

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. Ecclesiastes 2:9-11 NLT

Ever had that chasing the wind feeling? I know I have.

I think Solomon has helped answer our original question: “Is there contentment to be found in this world?” Clearly, if we are seeking contentment from the world’s viewpoint, we are headed for disappointment – every single time!

The answer to being content lies in our heart and our connection to Christ. In Christ there is contentment. Without Him we are nothing more than restless spirits who will aimlessly wander from one fleeting pleasure to another. Paul is our best example on how to be content regardless of our situation.

Paul who suffered beatings, jail, and even shipwrecks pursuing his one goal of spreading the Good News about Christ gives us the perfect picture of contentment. In his letter to the Philippian church, he writes:

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. Philippians 4:10-14 NLT

Paul brings the giver of contentment into full view. A life lived for Christ, dependent on and in rhythm with Christ, is a life in which contentment can be found. Our circumstances cannot be the determining factor of whether we will be content or not. We must seek Christ and His will to find a true sense of satisfaction that can withstand any situation.

Lord, as we take the time to focus on contentment this month, I pray You will refocus our hearts away from the things that are distracting us from You. I pray that unlike Solomon we will not find this life meaningless but completely worthwhile. That we will know the joy of living our lives fully on fire for You and what satisfaction that brings. Lord that we would count the many blessings You give us, and despite the worst of circumstances, we would let our hearts praise You. We admit Your thoughts are higher than our thoughts and Your ways higher than our ways. We give You our life to do with what You will, trusting You know best. Amen.

 

 

Founder, Transforming Love Ministries

Creator, She Steps Forward Women’s Conference


Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

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24
Jul

Girl Fight in The Church…Say What???

Hot topic this month – jealousy! And where do we find it? Right after Eve, jealousy returns and enters the life of the next woman mentioned by name in the Bible. Yes, Sarah! Sarah the wife of Abraham, a man known as the father of many nations, a friend of God, and the father of all who believe! Even in the heart of Sarah, who plays an important role in the history of salvation, we unravel the emotion of jealousy.

We meet this woman in Genesis 11, who was first named Sarai, which in Hebrew means my lady or my princess. Then God renamed her Sarah, which has a similar Hebrew name meaning lady, princess, or noblewoman. She was so beautiful that when traveling from country to country to the place God was taking them, Abraham became so worried about the response of other powerful men to her beauty that he lied about his relationship with her in an attempt to save his own life – twice (Genesis 12, Genesis 20). My God, as my teenage daughters would say, this chick is a baddie. So, what would Sarah have to be jealous of?

At some level, we all have insecurities. If we do not deal with our insecurities, this is where culture attempts to deceive us. And when we do not deal with those insecurities in a healthy manner, we find emotions like jealousy taking root in us.

Alright, let’s go a little further. First, we have this super baddie who is married to a modern-day Denzel Washington. I mean, Abraham had it going on at all levels! Yet this power couple finds themselves without children. In this time period, women who could not have kids struggled with many different labels. Some do even still today. Barren is one of those labels. In Sarah’s time and throughout Jewish history, it was considered a severe punishment for a woman to be barren. Abraham and Sarah, two faithful servants obeying God’s call over their life, found themselves, without true justification, walking through this social, emotional, mental, and physical hardship.

The Bible states in Genesis 12, Abraham was 75 years old when God first promised him that he would become a great nation. Surely the excitement Sarah had to have felt at that time stirred up a right now faith in her! I would not doubt for a minute that she believed with everything within her that she would instantaneously become pregnant. But no, that is NOT what happened.

Ten years have passed since God’s promise to Abraham that he would become a great nation. What Sarah desired most had not become tangible in her life in her timing. So then, Sarah does what many of us find ourselves doing when God doesn’t move in our timing. She took things into her own hands! She disrupted what once was a sisterhood, a valued relationship, and shattered it.

In Genesis 16, we meet Hagar, who served as a maid to Sarah. I can only imagine when serving someone at this level that there had to be some type of relationship formed. Hagar was probably at one point a confidant, someone in which Sarah could do life with. Apparently, so much so, that Sarah sent Hagar into the bed of her husband in order to aid God in fulfilling His promise. My, my, what a dangerous space to play in, doing something against the will of God for the sake of Kingdom impact!

At first, like all sinful acts, things seem to be working out. Everything is going according to plan and Hagar conceives. But, as with all sinful acts, there are unexpected, negative consequences.

So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!” Genesis 16:4-5 NLT

Hagar goes from maidservant to Abraham’s concubine and becomes the mother of his firstborn son, Ishmael. In the words of Beyoncé, Hagar was feeling herself! Despite Sarah’s beauty and all the uncommon, supernatural favor she had on her life, she had not yet accomplished what Hagar was able to produce! Here the battle begins. Hagar begins treating Sarah as if she was beneath her and Sarah deals harshly with Hagar to remind her of her place.

Both women begin battling the fruits of jealousy and envy that were taking root in their hearts. Sarah probably entertained the devil’s lies to her, like Hagar’s conception was proof that she was permanently barren. Not to mention the mental turmoil Sarah went through having had her husband sleep with another woman. Her alternate plan worked, but at what cost? Hagar most likely struggled with her own thought process as well, desiring some level of acknowledgement as a child bearer for Abraham. Both would cope negatively, and this would manifest in their behavior toward one another.

Sin makes great promises, but never discloses the problems attached. Sin never tells us what the negative side effects are until after we have committed the sin. With emotions running high and a constant feeling of wanting what the other has going on between these two women, the battle continues to rage. Then one day, Hagar decides to make a run for it! But God. She is found by an angel of the Lord and told to return to Sarah and in obedience, she does.

After the birth of Ishmael, for about fourteen years, perhaps up to seventeen years, Hagar and Sarah endured being in relationship with one another despite their contempt for one another. This is what the enemy ultimately wants. He will do anything to steal, kill, and destroy our praise (John 10:10). I cannot imagine the toll jealousy took on these women.

But then God, whose word will not return void, allows Sarah to become pregnant. Finally, Abraham’s son, Isaac, whom God had promised to make a covenant with, was born to Sarah.

And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!” Genesis 21:6-7 NLT

One might assume this would resolve all the resentment and feelings of jealousy between the two women, right? Wrong!

One day, Sarah turned and saw Ishmael making fun of Isaac and her jealousy and anger rose again. Deep down she feared that Ishmael would share in the inheritance due Isaac. Once again, Sarah takes things into her own hands, and she demands Abraham to send Hagar and her son, Ishmael, into the desert (Genesis 21).

Due to Hagar’s obedience during her first encounter with the Lord, what appeared to be a setback became a set up for her comeback! Once sent away, Hagar is freed from those who ultimately controlled every aspect of her life. She was able to subdue her jealousy, discover her own personal identity, and continue an intimate relationship with God. God not only sustained them in the wilderness but created a great nation through Ishmael.

But let’s return to Sarah for just a minute. Why was jealousy able to grip Sarah’s heart so tightly? Because she had given up hope. She was looking at God’s promise from a very limited human perspective. And then, things just spiraled out of control.

But that’s what I love about God, He will take our mess and turn it into His message! In spite of all the sinful emotions streaming between these two women, the Lord used their lives to unfold an extraordinary plan. Let Sarah and Hagar’s story remind us that a time of waiting may be God’s precise plan for His promise! While we wait, we must control the spirit of jealousy. Do you want to experience the peace and self-control that comes from trusting God during the wait? Or would you prefer to continue wrestling with the bondage jealousy brings? The choice is yours!

Written by Stacha Ashburn


Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

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17
Jul

Do Good Christian Girls Ever Get Envious?

Envy. This little four-letter word could possibly be one of the most destructive words in the English language. Are you thinking, Rhonda, that’s quite an exaggeration isn’t it? After all, we have all heard of someone being green with envy, we’ve probably even experienced it ourselves. No harm done really in most cases, right?

Humor me for a moment, please. This thought has been resonating around in my head this week as I started really contemplating the question of: Do good Christian girls ever get envious?

Let’s roll the calendar back to the beginning of time when everything was created by God. Everything belonged to him. EVERYTHING! The Bible tells us that God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. There He gave them free reign to eat from every tree in the garden except for one – the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This is the only fruit God said they could not have (Genesis 2).

And right there, at the beginning of everything, envy raised its snake-like head. Being convinced by the devil that she was missing out on something, Eve, then Adam, made a costly mistake. Genesis 3:6-7 states:

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So, she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So, they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. NLT

It’s pretty easy for us to sit in our favorite chair and think how foolish Eve was to trade all the peace and perfection that surrounded her in Eden for a piece of fruit. But I believe we should make no mistake about this; it was NOT about the fruit! It was the fact that God had something Eve wanted, something she felt should be hers. So, while the serpent came along and tempted her, it was Eve’s own envious desires that led to that fateful bite. Sure, the fruit was beautiful and looked delicious, but most of all she wanted to be like God (Genesis 3:4-6). She would know everything, and she deserved to know everything, right?

Do you see it?  She wanted something that was not hers!

Wow, we women have a very long history of looking outside of our own lives and thinking that the thing someone else possesses, whether it is their husband, their home, their hair or even their intelligence, is what we need to complete our own story. We get twisted up so easily thinking that somehow we have not been given what should be rightly ours. We fail to see the blessings and protections God has already given us.

Maybe it’s not every woman. Maybe it’s just Eve and I, but something tells me you’ve been envious of someone or something during your lifetime as well. What is it that allows the serpent to so easily convince us to want what everyone else has?

At the beginning, I stated that envy could well be one of the most destructive words in our vocabulary. Let me correct that. It is not the word, but the emotion that is lethal. According to Proverbs 14:30:

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. NIV

Let’s look at our own day-to-day and see where envy pops up. I’ll start with a recent example of my own and assume you have a similar instance that you could point to as well.

Over the last year or so, I have gotten serious about my health. I hired a behavioral modification specialist/nutritionist/fitness instructor to help me understand why I was making poor food choices and why it seemed that my health was not improving no matter how hard I tried to make better choices. Trust me when I say, I have tried an endless number of ways to be a swimsuit model.

As a result of obedience to the instruction I have been given, I have lost forty plus pounds. Huge accomplishment, right? However, as I have inched closer to attaining my fitness goals, it has become more difficult to lose an ounce, much less a pound. Enter envy just on cue!

I had really buckled down. I ate exactly according to plan, drank the recommended water amount required, and walked the 10,000 plus steps every day that week. On Monday, it was time to step on the scale. I was up 1.5 lbs. Immediately I was envious of my friends that just the night before had wolfed down pizza and ice cream while I drank water. I wanted their metabolism, their figures, their life. I was envious.

Yes, I am a Christian and was envious! There, I said it. I allowed envy to blind me from the success I have had thus far. If I had allowed the emotion of envy to stay, I would have thrown in the towel, welcomed feelings of despair, and as my own history proves, comforted myself with brownies, candy, or some other vice, possibly destroying my journey to health and wellness.

I’m not saying that I easily dismissed the feelings of envy. I didn’t! I spent more time crying and complaining about my reflection in the mirror than I would care to admit to you. But, as I grow closer in my walk with God, I am better equipped to see the lies that envy tells. This time, instead of heading off to the pantry, I headed to my prayer closet. I poured out my disappointment and frustrations to God. I asked Him to release me from always comparing myself to others and I repented for being discontent with what He has blessed me with. I needed to give it to Him and allow Him to work in my spirit. As much as I want to vent, I also need to have an open heart to hear the Lord. God wants to be the center of my life; He wants to fill the empty spaces. God wants me to be jealous for Him alone.

1Timothy 6:6-9 speaks about those who long to be rich, putting their desires before everything else, and how true godliness with contentment is, in itself, a great wealth. In other words, contentment is the key. These verses are discussing money, but we can insert anything that we are envious of in its place. For me, it is body image. What is it for you?

I don’t know why God chose to create me to be a towering 5’2” tall with a rather solid build. But He did and that needs to be enough. He also created me to have a sense of humor, to be fiercely loyal to friends and family, and to be smart, honest, and hardworking. He gifted me with a husband that goes to crazy lengths to ensure I’m happy, sons that love me, and several beautiful grandchildren. Lastly, God has blessed me with a heart that wants to, above all else, honor Him.

Envy continues to try and rise up in me every so often, but through the relationship I now have with my Lord, it usually isn’t successful in the long term at getting me to take that bite. I pray that you too will press into God when envy comes slithering about.

So, to answer the question we started with: Do good Christian girls ever get envious? I would have to say, yes, of course we do. We are human and part of our human condition is struggling with the brokenness of this world. However, as Christians, we have a weapon that is above all things. When envy strikes, we have the Lord who helps us to stand back up. Press in sisters! Don’t trade the paradise you’ve been given for the shiny lie envy is holding.

Written by Rhonda Carlsen

Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT and the NIV

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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10
Jul

The Many Faces of Jealousy

jeal·ous·y (ˈjeləsē): 

Envious feeling of discontent and ill will because of an other’s advantages, possessions, etc.; resentful dislike of another who has something that one desires.

What is jealousy? Jealousy commonly refers to thoughts or feelings of insecurity or uncertainty, fear or anxiety, and/or concern for a relative lack of possessions. Jealousy can consist of one or more emotions, such as anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness, or disgust. People can be dangerously consumed with jealousy. Jealousy is up close and personal.

From scripture, there are many faces of jealousy we could name. Last week, Elaine spoke of Leah and Rachel, two sisters jealous over a man who became rivals. Next week, Rhonda is discussing Eve, whose desire and overpowering longing for something that she couldn’t have ultimately caused the eviction of mankind from the Garden of Eden.

Then there’s Lot’s wife who longed so deeply for the material life that she had in Sodom, that even after being warned, DO NOT LOOK BACK (which, by the way, she totally ignored), was turned into a pillar of salt.

Look at Delilah. She accepted money to betray Samson. Overcome by her greed, she was deceitful, disloyal, and selfish causing Samson to fall into the hands of the Philistines.

And let’s not get started on Jezebel! Unscrupulous, immoral, unrestrained, and corrupt, she resorted to lies and murder to satisfy her jealousy and selfish whims.

That’s at least six faces of jealousy in Scripture I’ve noted. Each one of these women experienced some form of jealousy, and their lives concluded with serious consequences. But I have one more woman that I want to focus on. Let’s take a look at someone rarely mentioned today and what her jealous nature cost her.

Let’s examine Miriam, the sister of Moses, and what history tells us about her from both the Bible and some of the ancient Jewish writings.

Before the birth of Miriam or Moses, the Pharaoh of Egypt ordered the Hebrew midwives, who helped Israelite women give birth, to watch and see if these women had boys or girls. If a boy was born, they were to kill him. If it was a girl, they were to let her live. However, the midwives feared God more than Pharaoh, so they refused to carry out this order (Exodus 1:15-17). In response, Pharaoh’s next order, given to all his people, was:

“Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.” Exodus 1:22 NLT

With this piece of the story in mind, the Bible then tells us of a couple who had at least three children – Miriam, Aaron, and Moses. Scripture tells us that Miriam was the older sister of Aaron and Moses. She is one of the few women in the Bible called a prophetess.

When Moses was three months old, his mother placed him in a basket among the reeds on the banks of the Nile. Miriam then situated herself off in the distance to see what would happen to him. Pharaoh’s daughter would then find him and take him in as her own. Quick to seize the opportunity, a young Miriam approaches the princess and offers her assistance by volunteering to go get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby she had found. With the princess’ acceptance of her offer, Miriam comes back to her with Moses’ own mother, who is hired on the spot (Exodus 2:3-9).

In the Torah*, Miriam also anonymously appears as the sister of Moses who stands on the riverbank. In the Midrash*, a collection of highly-respected Jewish writings, the Rabbis associate Miriam’s being by the riverbank with her earlier prophesy. According to these writings, she prophesied that her mother would birth a son who would deliver Israel. When Moses was born, her father was said to have celebrated and praised Miriam because her prophesy had come true.

Sometime later, Miriam appears again in the Bible assisting her brothers in leading the Israelite people to freedom from under Pharaoh’s rule. After many miracles and plagues, the three are found leading the people of Israel safely through the Red Sea, while Pharaoh’s army is swallowed up by the waters (Exodus 7-15).

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. Exodus 15:20 NLT

The Torah also mentions Miriam by name in relation to this Song at the Sea.

Interestingly, the Midrash credits her as having contributed greatly to the redemption of Israel from Egypt. Though the writings give Miriam no formal position as a leader, she was considered to be a part of a family triumvirate with her brothers, and therefore, influential. Under the Midrash’s representative rendition of the cup-bearer’s dream from Genesis 40, it is stated that Miriam, Aaron, and Moses are considered to be the three branches of the vine that appear in that dream, representing an emerging and blossoming Israelite people.

According to the Aggadah*, another collection of Jewish writings, Miriam is a central source of vitality, a foremost leader, who cares for Israel’s needs in the wilderness. Miriam is again represented as a very intrinsic member of the Moses-Aaron-Miriam leadership triad.

Are you getting a sense of Miriam’s importance among the Jewish people? So, where did she go wrong?

Maybe a seed of jealousy was planted in Miriam’s heart as she watched the Lord speak to Moses and use Aaron more than her. Maybe Miriam thought she deserved to be placed higher in status than Moses and Aaron because she was the oldest sibling and had the gift of prophecy.

What we do know is her self-righteous tendencies and her jealousy over Moses became apparent when his marriage to a Cushite woman came to light. (It should be noted that the identity of this wife is not explained in scripture and that there are many theories of who she was). Moses, the Bible says, was the humblest of all people and didn’t react to his siblings’ disapproval. What we do know is the conversation was not so much about the woman as it was about Moses breaking Jewish tradition and yet, being used by God.

While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” But the Lord heard them. Numbers 12:1-2 NLT

When the Lord heard them, (as we all know, He HEARS EVERYTHING) He was angry and called them all to the Tabernacle! Here is the first consequence of Miriam’s jealousy. She is being questioned about her actions and reprimanded in person by the Lord!

Interestingly, it is Miriam that is punished further, which implicates her as the ringleader of this jealous fit. The second consequence of her jealousy was that the Lord struck her with leprosy on His way back to heaven. Moses, as we recall, who wasn’t offended nor reacted to his sister’s angst, continues to show tremendous love for her. In spite of her jealousy towards him, Moses pleads her case to God, asking for her healing. And God complies with a condition. She would be punished with leprosy and put outside of the camp for seven days before being allowed back among the people. Therefore, Moses and the people waited for her before they traveled again (Num. 12:1-15).

Lesson learned! God is paying attention to what His worshipers say to or about one another. To please God, we must avoid undue pride and jealousy. These toxic traits may cause us to smear the good reputation of others and/or our own in the process.

Time for a quick, honest, self-check: Are you harboring any venomous feelings of jealousy toward someone else? Is there anything that you envy having so much that you are obsessed with getting it? Are you feeling resentful, insecure, possessive, bitter, or angry towards anyone? Most importantly, is jealousy coming between you and God?

Precious Father in Heaven, we humbly come to You seeking Your love to fill us to overflowing. We seek You more each day, so that there is no room for jealousy or any other negative emotion. We trust that You will guide us and weed out anything that is not of You. We thank You for Your tender mercies, love, and grace. We thank You for Your hedge of protection from the enemy. In Your precious name, Jesus, we pray. AMEN.

Written by Melony Henderson

Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Additional Resources:

Meir, Tamar. “Miriam: Midrash and Aggadah.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive. (Viewed on July 7, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/miriam-midrash-and-aggadah>.

*Jewish writings defined:

  • Jewish Torah – the law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures (the Pentateuch).
  • Midrash – a type of non-halakhic literary activity of the Rabbis for interpreting non-legal material according to special principles of interpretation (hermeneutical rules).
  • Aggadah – statements that are not scripturally dependent and that pertain to ethics, traditions, and actions of the Rabbis; the non-legal (non-halakhic) material of the Talmud.

 

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3
Jul

Jealousy – The Bond Breaker

I have seen it happen over and over again in life. The sincerest of female friendships broken up over a guy. These females may have grown up together, gone through a traumatic period together, or just simply bonded because they had so much in common. But then a male enters the picture and suddenly that dear, sweet, enduring friendship goes south – FAST. And at the root of it all is jealousy.

And we all know it doesn’t just happen in friendships either. Jealousy happens between siblings as well. Two sisters can become bitter rivals in the throws of a jealous fit. It starts with something like comparing clothes to comparing hair color to comparing height until it turns into a full-grown competition over careers, husbands, and kids.

Jealousy brings out the worst in us. We know it, but it doesn’t stop us from entertaining it nonetheless.

The Bible states in James 3:14-16:

But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. NLT

In other words – nothing good comes of it! Nothing!

When I think of jealousy, I often think of two sisters in the Bible who demonstrate how quickly this emotion can destroy what should have been a beautiful bond between siblings.

Leah and Rachel were the two daughters of Laban, a kinsman to Isaac’s wife Rebekah. Enter Jacob, Isaac and Rebekah’s youngest son. You remember Jacob, right? He cheated his oldest brother, Esau, out of his birthright for a mere bowl of soup. And then, he tricked his father into giving him the blessing that was traditionally held for the firstborn. That’s Jacob!

When we come to Leah and Rachel’s story, Jacob has been sent off to find a wife from among his mother’s people and directed specifically to go to Laban. As he neared the land owned by Laban, he is first met by some townsmen waiting by a well to water their sheep. Then down comes Rachel, Laban’s youngest daughter. Instantly, Jacob is in love. And what’s not to love about Rachel. The Bible states she was beautiful and that she was a shepherdess. Beauty and brains!

In Jacob’s pursuit to make Rachel his wife, he promises to work seven years for Laban in return for the right to marry Rachel. However, when the seven years are over, Laban tricks Jacob into marrying Leah first (you can read that part of the story in Genesis 29:20-26). Now Leah was stated to have weak eyes (Genesis 29:17) and the insinuation by most commentaries is that she was not attractive. She was definitely not Jacob’s first pick.

But what about Rachel? Oh, Jacob would be given Rachel to marry, but after he promised to work another seven years for Laban. See his determination to have Rachel? Imagine Leah’s disappointment and feelings of rejection. Think she was a little jealous? Probably. But who the Bible calls envious might surprise you!

As this story progresses, we see that even though Jacob loves Rachel the best, he doesn’t turn completely away from Leah either. In fact, Leah would be the first to give him children.

When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Genesis 29:31 ESV

Leah gave birth not to just one child, but to four! Obviously, she and Jacob had contact.

And then the Bible states this about Rachel:

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Genesis 30:1 ESV

Ah! The shoe is on the other foot now!

So jealous was Rachel, that in her desperation, she gives her servant to Jacob to bear him children on her behalf. From this union comes two sons. But Leah, who had not become pregnant again, is determined to reign supreme in the heir department and also gives Jacob her servant to bear him children. From this union comes two more sons.

Jealousy is winning.

Then in a strange, but almost familiar exchange some time later, we find the two sisters discussing the use of a common herb found in the land, which Leah’s son has brought to her. These mandrake plants were assumed to have fertility producing powers. With that in mind, you can understand why Rachel would want them. Still childless, she asks Leah for a portion of them, but Leah’s rejection is showing. Clearly, without the bearing of further children, Jacob’s interest in Leah has started to wane. And Rachel – her desperation continues to heighten, so she bargains with Leah (…remember the bowl of soup between two brothers?).

But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.” Genesis 30:15 ESV

But Rachel’s scheme would produce more heartache for her, as Leah would go on to bare two more children for Jacob after their exchange.

Can you imagine Rachel’s reaction? Ten children later, having shared her husband with three different women, still barren, and losing hope, I think it is sincerely possible that Rachel isn’t as much jealous anymore as she is completely humbled. Why do I say this? I think Genesis 30:22-23 gives us a clue.

Then God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. “God has removed my disgrace,” she said. NLT

This passage tells me that Rachel isn’t looking to Jacob anymore to fulfill her want of a child, but that she is finally looking to God. Jealousy has turned her life into a long string of unsuccessful grabs at wholeness. Her relationship with her sister is broken, her marriage has no doubt been strained through the years, and her incredible outward beauty has not served her in the manner she may have thought it once would. Now she is able to be used by God for His purposes. Not only would Rachel bear Joseph, but also Benjamin. And with the births of her two biological sons, the lineage of the twelve tribes of Israel would finally be complete.

What is jealousy keeping you from today? Is there a friend or family bond that is suffering due to jealousy? Or is your relationship with Jesus at stake? We can all learn from Leah and Rachel’s story. Don’t allow jealousy to steal another moment of your life! It’s simply not worth it.

 

 

 

Founder, Transforming Love Ministries

Creator, She Steps Forward Women’s Conference


Please note all scripture was taken from the ESV and NLT.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

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26
Jun

Freedom from Condemnation

As I was invited to challenge myself to explore the emotion of freedom, instantly freedom from condemnation came to me. I know in my own walk and within my community of sisters, we struggle to walk in God’s worth because of our past or present sin. We entertain the lies that culture, Satan, and we ourselves whisper to us about our mess. Mess that maybe we created, mess that maybe we had absolutely no control over, or just mess that leaves us feeling dirty and condemned.

When we remain in our mess, or hold on to it, we aren’t allowing God to take that mess and turn it into a message. But when we decide to stop allowing the deception that tries to keep us in bondage from holding us back, we can walk in true freedom.

John 8:36 (NIV) says:

 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Galatians 5:1 (NIV) says:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

These are just a couple of God’s promises of the freedom we own as daughters of the true and living God.

As I started searching the Bible for a woman that truly embodied freedom from condemnation, Rahab was placed on my heart. If God can do it for her, we know He can do it for us. This story unfolds in the Old Testament before the fulfillment of God’s awaited promise, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Today, we are on the receiving end of the promise with our helper, the Holy Spirit. Now more than ever we have the choice to break free from bondage!

Without further ado, let’s meet our free from condemnation sister Rahab. Formerly a prostitute, she was predominantly immoral for a period of her lifetime, but it would not be endless. Queen of the Night may have once been her temporary label, but it wouldn’t be her permanent legacy. Through her faith in God the Father, this sister would find freedom and choose to live a life fully alive.

Rahab is first mentioned in the Bible as Rahab the Harlot. Harlot, meaning prostitute, was not the only label Rahab contended with. She was also a Canaanite, which made her a hated enemy of Israel. Faced with a real time, life changing decision, she tells a lie. Let’s think about that ladies. Rahab – a prostitute, a despised Canaanite, and a liar. You wouldn’t think that this woman would one day be a part of the lineage of Jesus Christ, but she was.

As her story unfolds, we will learn that once she chose the freedom that only God can offer us, she never looked back.

According to the account in Joshua 2, before the defeat of Canaan, Joshua sent two men as spies to see the land. They came to Rahab’s house for lodging. After all, it wouldn’t seem odd that two strange men were staying at her home. Or would it? Somehow, the King of Jericho gets word of this visit and sends a messenger to Rahab, demanding she give them up. She quickly conjures up a story, telling the king’s men they had left. She insists that the king’s messengers should chase the foreigners down. All the while, the spies are hidden under the flax drying on Rahab’s roof (Joshua 2:4). This exchange sets up the turning point in Rahab’s life!

When she goes up to the roof and uncovers the two men, and before she allows them to sleep for the night, she explains to them that she knows that their God will give Israel the land (Joshua 2:8-9). Rahab then makes the most astonishing statement of all:

For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Joshua 2:11 NIV

In an instance, Rahab’s freedom is secured. She freely admits the Israelites’ God is the one, true living God.

Rahab would let the men go freely, but not without first making an awe-inspiring request. In return for her act of kindness, she boldly asked that she and her family be spared once the Israelites attacked Jericho. In agreement, the spies give her a scarlet cord to hang from her window. With the cord in place as a signal, when the Israelites destroyed Jericho, Rahab and her whole family would be spared.

Rahab had defied a ruler and saved the Israelites. Then, her uncommon faith and confession led to her salvation.

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:10 NIV

And the Israelite spies would keep their promise, saving Rahab and her entire family at the taking of Jericho. Rahab did not waiver in her newfound faith. She repented and turned to God. Rahab accepted who God said she was despite what she used to be. This heroine of the faith was convicted not condemned. She was free!

From call girl to woman of God to wife of an Israelite, this was Rahab’s reward (Joshua 6:25). She would later become the mother of Boaz and the great-great-grandmother of King David, an ancestor of Jesus Christ. How profound that God not only used her to assist the Israelites as well as to save her own family, but He transformed her into such a woman of faith that He honors her still today. Matthew 1:5 reveals Rahab for all time as a direct descendent in the genealogy of our Lord and Savior.

Walking in God’s freedom will redirect the trajectory of your life! Whatever has happened, happened. We can’t remake our past, but with God there is hope for the future. No matter what has happened in your background, Rahab’s story shows us with God there is grace, peace, and freedom!

Lord God, we thank You for Your word that assures us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the law of sin and death (Roman 8:1-2). If You do not condemn me, I have no right or place to condemn myself. Help me to be like Rahab and to not get caught in the defeating cycle of self-condemnation. Instead, help me to walk in Your worth, believing what You say of me, and being everything You say I am! Amen!

Written by Stacha Ashburn


Please note all scripture was taken from the NIV – New International Version

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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19
Jun

How Am I Supposed to Walk in Freedom?

Be free! Live free! Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? It’s a catchy phrase, but how do I as a mother, wife, employee, boss, or friend actually walk that out in my life. Or for that matter, how do you in yours? None of the roles I play have listed living free as a requirement for me to consider them a job well done.

None, except one! Being a Christian woman says for me to walk in freedom with Jesus Christ.

Alright, that sounds fantastic! But I’ve heard it said, and I bet you have too, about how restricting Christianity is to women. That, as a Christian woman, I am not allowed to do this thing, associate with those people, go to certain places, wear this outfit, or say whatever I wish. Those may be the world’s thoughts on what Christianity means, but it’s incorrect.

Christianity is rooted in the belief of Jesus Christ and His teachings. A Christian is simply a follower of Jesus. Please hear me on this, Jesus came to set the captives free!

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and commissioned me to bring good news to the humble and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up [the wounds of] the brokenhearted, to proclaim release [from confinement and condemnation] to the [physical and spiritual] captives and freedom to prisoners. Isaiah 61:1 AMP

Prior to Jesus, everyone was captured by sin and death was the price to be paid. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He paved the road to my freedom (Romans 6:23). All I need to do to start walking out the rest of my life in that very freedom is to believe in Him, ask to be in relationship with Him, and profess Him Lord.

Throughout His life and through His death on the cross, Jesus displayed freedom for all. With that spirit of freedom came hope, healing, comfort, and above all else, love.

Mark 5:25-34 tells the story of a woman who was captive to an illness for over 12 years that kept her bleeding continuously. Because of this, by law, she was to isolate herself from the general public. Imagine that for a minute. Had she followed what society said a woman was supposed to do in that situation, she would have spent the rest of her life captive to this illness. She would have remained in line with what those around her thought she should do and remained ill. She would not have reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe the day He was passing by her town. But this desperate woman recognized freedom was on the road passing her by, so she bravely stepped out of the crowd and grabbed on to the hem of His robe. She recognized through faith that Jesus Christ held freedom for her and she took the leap. And immediately, she was made whole!

John 4:4-42 takes us to a well on the outskirts of Samaria, a town despised by the Jewish people. Yet, Jesus spent time in places, like Samaria, that Jewish society said was no good and deemed unworthy. But there at the well, someone that we know as the Samaritan woman found freedom through Jesus. He spoke to and mentored this woman that even the good citizens of Samaria felt didn’t even deserve to gather water with the town. Had she followed what society said a woman was supposed to do in that situation, remain quiet, she would have spent the rest of her life captive to her past. If she had not answered when He spoke to her, how do you think she would have found freedom? Sure, the townspeople knew everything she had done, but they were only offering her condemnation. However, Jesus offered her living water, water that would satisfy her thirst for eternal freedom. Jesus, once again, was the key to freedom.

How about the woman accused of adultery! Read her story in John 8:1-11. Do you think she would have found freedom without Christ? Of course not! Left to the townspeople, she would have been stoned to death. It was Jesus that stepped in, spoke up, and secured her freedom.

I could go on and on with examples from the Bible that show Jesus wasn’t about rule following. He was and is about love and His love brings freedom. He has sent the Holy Spirit to walk with me and to help guide me in how-to walk-in freedom.

I’m a Christian and I am free indeed.

Does this mean I can be coarse in my language, eat whatever I choose, wear whatever I want, hangout in places that don’t seem very churchy? Sure, I can do all those things. I’m free to choose! But there are consequences to every decision good or bad, Christian or not. I cannot lose my salvation by doing something that goes against what Jesus is about, but internally, I’m not going to feel good about it. I know this, and so, I try very hard to remember the price He paid. To honor Jesus’ sacrifice, I strive to do the things I know will glorify God.

For example, Jesus has taught me that along the path of freedom is kind speech, using words to lift others up not tear them down. I have also learned, as a Christian, my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so I need to take care of it. Not because Jesus demands it, but because I want to honor the sacrifice made on my behalf. Because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I want people to feel the love of Jesus through me regardless of how my outfit looks today or where I happen to be hanging out. The Holy Spirit living in me helps me accomplish these goals.

The freedom Jesus has given me makes me want everyone I meet to know that very freedom.

So, you see, Christianity isn’t about what I can or cannot do. Jesus does not care about my race, gender, or my past sins. He has a plan for me and you that is fully abundant and free of condemnation and societal restrictions. I say it’s time for us as women to arise, step out regardless of the crowd that surrounds us, drink of the only water that will quench our spiritual thirst, brush off the dust from the rocks thrown at us, and walk on the path of freedom Christ has purchased for us.

Are you ready to walk?

Written by Rhonda Carlsen

Please note all scripture was taken from the AMP – Amplified Bible

Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.

 

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12
Jun

What Is Freedom?

freedom (ˈfrēdəm) :

the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint; the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved; the power of will or self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity

Many things can make us feel oppressed. At times, we feel so restrained that it can appear as if any level of freedom is impossible. Freedom can manifest as either physical or non-physical freedom. An obvious example of lacking physical freedom is being jailed or in prison. A societal stigma, such as not having children or a station in life, may be perceived as lacking a non-physical freedom. Regardless of which kind of freedom we feel has been lost, we can feel powerless or as if we have nowhere to turn as a result. Some may describe it as feeling like there is a straitjacket preventing us from embracing the independence and freedom we desire. When we get like this, we as human beings want to take control. We want to intercede on our own behalf, forgetting that God is in control.

However, Galatians 5:13 states:

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. NLT

In Scripture, God provides many clear illustrations of how we can stumble in our freedom by taking on His role versus ours, and therefore sin in our independence and self-determination.

Let’s take a look at two women in Scripture who represent God’s two covenants with man – the old covenant based on the Law and the new covenant based on grace. Maybe we can get a better handle on this freedom we speak of through the lens of this story’s narrative. Today, we’re going to talk about Sarah and Hagar.

Sarah, originally known as Sarai, was the wife of Abraham, originally known as Abram. Because of Abraham’s faith in God, the Lord would birth the nation of Israel through their union, but not before the freedom of both Sarah and Hagar, Sarah’s slave, had been trampled upon.

When you dive deep into Sarah’s life, you cannot miss the fact that she, who was not a slave, was deeply enslaved by societal standards.

At age 75, Abraham took his wife Sarah, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth from Haran to Canaan at the Lord’s command. The Lord’s promise to Abraham was that He would give the land to his many descendants (Genesis 12:1-6). Side note – Sarah was barren.

Later, during a severe famine in Canaan, Abraham was forced to go to Egypt. In fear, he had Sarah, who apparently was quite beautiful, pretend to be his sister so that if she was desired by someone there, he would not be killed for it. Indeed, when they arrived everyone noticed her beauty and as was common in the day, when word reached the Pharaoh, he took her and provided many gifts to Abraham because of Sarah. What just happened?

However, because Abraham allowed her to be taken as Pharaoh’s wife, the Lord brought terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household. Once Pharaoh realized Sarah wasn’t Abraham’s sister but his wife, they were graciously escorted out of Egypt with all their possessions (Genesis 12:10-20). To add to Sarah’s sorrow, this pattern of behavior repeated years later when Abraham came into the kingdom of Abimelech, but the Lord once again redeemed Sarah (Genesis 20). Childless and tossed around like a transaction, can you see Sarah’s chains?

In the midst of Sarah’s torn life was Hagar, her Egyptian servant. Hagar, a true slave, was caught between the pages of Abraham and Sarah’s life. Years after the Lord’s original promise to Abraham, Sarah who was still barren decided it was a good idea to give her servant, Hagar, to her husband as a wife in the hopes that through her she would have children. And Hagar? Choiceless in the matter.

Abraham takes Hagar and has sex with her at his wife’s bidding. But as in most cases, when we attempt to solve our own problems without consulting God, the situation only intensifies. Once Hagar knew she was pregnant, she became hostile and disrespectful to Sarah. Sarah, consumed by emotions, first blames her husband for her servant’s behavior. Abraham, not taking responsibility for his wife’s freely given gift, attempts to smooth over things with her by giving her free reign over Hagar. An angry, bitter Sarah was told to do what she saw fit. And she did. Sarah was so cruel that Hagar ran away.

But the angel of the Lord found Hagar along the road to Shur and told her to return to her mistress and submit to her authority. Broken, distressed Hagar is promised that she would be given more descendants than she could count. Overjoyed by the fact that God saw her, Hagar for the first time in her life is free (Genesis 16:1-13).

Yet, God’s plan was untouched by any of these events. At age 99, Abraham was told his 90-year-old wife, Sarah, would give him a son the following year. And at last, Sarah is freed, birthing her own son in old age. A new, everlasting covenant was formed at the birth of Isaac. Sarah would go on to be proclaimed the mother of many nations, with kings among her many descendants (Genesis 17:15-21).  

And Hagar, due to Sarah’s continued resentment toward her, would eventually be sent away with her son, Ishmael. On that day, however, Hagar would walk away a free woman forever!

The Scripture says that Abraham has two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. Galatians 4:22-23 NLT

Two women, enslaved in different ways by a society that devalued them based solely on gender, still possessed a level of self-determination and independence. In their struggle to gain their own personal freedom, they show us two different approaches we as humans take.

I can only imagine Sarah’s initial emotional distress as she was unable to have children, and then sense the growth of her desperation to give Abraham descendants. I am wrecked at her loss of freedom in having to become Pharaoh’s wife and then suffer a near similar fate with King Abimelech. Hopeless in her physical condition and desiring the admiration of her husband, she turns to a surrogate, but it leaves her feeling even more rejected.

And Hagar, having no freedom, not even in possession of her own body, grabs for any sense of status she can find. She knew even pregnant she was a slave, but now she had the one thing Sarah didn’t have at the time – Abraham’s son. Imagine the sense of freedom she must have felt in spite of her position as a slave. Her behavior would soon show it. The lack of restraint that she showed towards Sarah once she was pregnant must have been liberating for her, even if it was fleeting.

Both their stories could have ended horribly, but GOD! In their misery, He redeemed them, freed them, and elevated them both far above the common chattel they were. They are both illustrations of God’s mercy and grace! He fulfilled His promise to make them both mothers of many descendants, including princes and kings, but He did not waiver from His ultimate plan.

These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia, because she and her children live in slavery to the law. But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. Galatians 4:24-26 NLT

Despite our limited perspective and actions, our limitless God will continue to work everything out in this world to accomplish His will and His promises for our good. May we find freedom in that! 

Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we come to you humbly, seeking freedom from all anxiety. We thank you that you give us the unrestrained freedom to follow Your Will and Purpose for our lives. We ask that you give us the power to go out boldly in Your Name and that You temper our independence and determination so that we can run the race You have place before us for Your glory. Remove the emotional hindrances and restraints that prevent us from freely serving You Precious Lord. Allow us to accept Your freely given Grace. We release the chains holding us back from true spiritual freedom. We bind the enemy’s stronghold on our emotional and physical freedoms both on Earth and in Heaven. In the Precious Name of Jesus we pray, AMEN.

Written by Melony Henderson

Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

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